John Hughes is a Big Fat Liar
(or how my life did not go back to normal after revealing my Big Non-Slutty Secret to the entire school)
If there is one thing about my story you need to remember, it’s this: real life is never going to be just like a John Hughes movie, no matter if you’ve managed to snag yourself a boyfriend who shows up outside your window on a riding lawn mower and whisks you away into the sunset to the awesomely synthetic tunes of Peter Gabriel... which I did, thank you very much.
But the thing about movies and books is that they usually end once you get your Hollywood happy ending. You never do get to find out if Cinderella and Prince Charming end up having a dozen snotty brats, getting old and saggy, and hating each other’s guts or if the Breakfast Club manages to topple the strict social pyramid that is the American high school and stay BFFs for life after the credits roll, you know?
I’d like to say that my ending was just as perfect and awesome as any of the movies, and yeah, for one glorious weekend, it was. I had my John Cusack (although I don’t think Cusack ever had abs as nice as Woodchuck Todd’s), got my kickass musical number, and I had been gloriously vindicated in the eyes of my peers. Or so I thought.
It shouldn’t surprise a single one of you that broadcasting the sordid details of my two week reign as the supposed slut of the Ojai North High to the World Wide Web did not, in fact, immediately set all things right in the crazy life and world of Olive Penderghast. I was hoping that some other shiny scandal would occur over the weekend to distract the magpie-like attention spans of my contemporaries, but alas, that was not to be.
Come the Monday After, people were still texting each other about my supposed slutty shenanigans in first period (“herd olive&todd did it on a lawn mower!1! wut a easy ho”), whispering about me in bathroom stalls (“Can you believe that attention whore? Did all that for a guy, Christ, what a dumb bitch.”), shooting me judging glares in the hallway, and generally just being assholes about the entire situation.
Perhaps I should have uploaded a Spark Notes version of my tale for the substandard achievers because it seemed my point about gossip being a Very Bad Thing Indeed and that slut shaming is Incredibly Uncool and Hurtful had gone over everyone's heads quite nicely.
I’m sure Molly Ringwald never had to sit through a lecture from rat-faced Nina Lachowski about the horrible sin of lying for ten minutes in English before the substitute could get her to shut up and probably would have made up with her former best friend who called her a tramp the week before by lunch too. And I bet Ferris Bueller totally never got a month’s worth of after school detention for his kickass musical number. Lucky bastard.
At times, the Monday After I spilled my big, non-slutty secret to the entire school felt worse than the weeks where everyone thought I was Doing It all over the place. How unreal was that? I had triumphed most supremely Friday afternoon. I had taken control of my image and reclaimed my sense of self! I had stuck it to The Man and told everyone where they could shove their ridiculous sexual double standards! I got the guy, empowered myself, and I was Queen of the World!
And yet I was still eating lunch in the big wide cafeteria alone and feeling like utter shit.
Yeah, this would definitely be the scene of my movie they’d leave on the cutting room floor. Who wants to watch the fearless protagonist be publicly humiliated even more than she already was?
So I did what any other teenage girl who had turned a thousand of her peers against her with one brief webcast: I sought out someone who’d understand my deep and unrelenting angst. And no, it wasn’t a protagonist in a Judy Blume or Sarah Dessen novel, okay. Geeze.
The thing about having a boyfriend who spends a good chunk of his school day wandering around in a woodchuck outfit is that he should be easy to find in a crowd. However, Todd must’ve been going incognito today to avoid all the congratulatory, “Dude, you finally made with a hot chick! Yeaaaah!” asspats in the locker room or the simpering pouts from his club full of admirers. (If you think it’s weird that our school mascot has admirers, you have clearly never seen Woodchuck Todd’s fabulous abs on game day.)
Because I don’t have his class schedule memorized (stalker I am not) and couldn’t find him in the hallways between classes, I had to wait to talk to him until seventh period gym, the one class we had together.
The guys were still on their swimming unit and we girls were supposed to be running laps around the track, but I begged out, informing Coach Johannson that my body was currently putting my uterus through the blender and I could barely walk, let alone run, without being in extreme amounts of pain. I think she would’ve let me stay behind anyway, what with the bomb I dropped about Mrs. Griffiths making every other teacher uncomfortable as hell around me, like I was some scandal sniffing gossip dog. I just happened to be in the wrong place and blamed for the wrong STD at the wrong time. Take a chill pill and treat me like a human, teachers.
Anyway, I hung around on the bleachers by the pool, ignoring Evan every time he walked by to glare daggers at me for telling everyone that our imaginary tryst was, well, totally imaginary and ruining his chances with the ladies until college, until Todd finished with his laps and exited the pool in all his dripping wet glory to sit come talk to me.
“Your nickname today shall be Merman Todd in honor for your great skill at the forward crawl,” I declared as he approached, sounding much more confident than I felt. “Or are your particularly attached to the Woodchuck portion of your name?”
Todd grinned and my heart fluttered, making me feel a tried and true teenage girl again. One of the things I like about Todd is not only is not he scared away by my humor, but he gets it and that is essential for the boyfriend of Olive Penderghast.
“All this conditional identity business is going to mess with my head,” Todd replied, sitting beside me. He did a good job of ignoring the wolf whistles that were howled in our direction by our classmates; me, not so much. “Someday I’m going to wake up and think I am actually Merlobsterchuck Todd and it will be all your fault.”
“Merlobsterchuck. Now that would be an interesting mascot,” I replied, scooting over to avoid the water he was dripping all over the bleachers. “I don’t think it will strike fear into the hearts of our rivals though. More like extreme confusion.”
Todd nodded and threw the towel in his hands on his head, drying himself off. While his head was covered, the boys across the pool — asshole Evan among them — took it upon themselves to make incredibly lewd gestures at my person. The Olive from last week wouldn’t have stood for that shit, but the Olive of the Monday After was still feeling vulnerable and miserable enough to refer to herself in third person, so it only added to my bad mood.
It took Todd approximately five seconds to pick up on my change in demeanor; probably one of his super powers as a Merlobsterchuck... thing.
“You look unhappy,” he said, peering at me curiously from under his towel. His gaze followed mine across the pool where the crowd of XY-chromosome carrying dumbasses was quickly dispersing. “People still giving you shit?”
“Of course not. Our peers are incredibly forgiving and understanding creatures who welcomed me eagerly back into their bosom of friendship and joy,” I said grumpily, leaning back onto the bleachers and glaring up at the sky. I wish had remembered to grab my sunglasses. “I don’t know why I thought that webcast would magically fix everything. I’m still getting called a whore except now I’m a lying whore, everyone thinks I chucked your wood over the weekend even though the V-card is still firmly entrenched in my wallet, and the next big rumor going around will be that I dominated you on the bleachers in full sight of seventh period gym class... ”
Even if I hadn’t actually done anything except lie the last few weeks, the fact that thousands of other teenage girls who had slept with their boyfriends, let some guy stick their tongue down their throat at a party, or, gasp, had sex for the fun of it had to go through this judgemental bullshit daily was depressing enough for me. Why was it anyone’s goddamn business what went on between my legs?
“But the question is, will the rumor include the fact that you dominated me while wearing the Ojai North Woodchuck mascot suit? Because then that’d check ‘closet furry’ off the kinky sex bingo card real fast,” Todd replied, pulling the towel down around his shoulders. He grinned, but it faded when he noticed my mood hadn’t improved. “Hey, I know it sucks now. But didn’t we say we were just going to ignore it?”
“Yeah, but... ”
But you’re not a teenage girl, Todd, I wanted to say.
Except how does one explain all the complexities of being a teenage girl world to a teenage boy? All the mixed messages we get sent every day — be smart, but not too smart because guys don’t like that; be sexy, but you’re a slut if your shirt rides too low; wait for marriage, but you’re a prude if you won’t give it up to your boyfriend; be proud of your body, but here’s a bunch of products to fix every single little mistake God made when he gave it to you. It’s no wonder we’re all grumpy and a little be crazy by the time we move out of the hellhole stage of life known as adolescence.
“But sometimes it’s just hard to ignore,” I said instead. “I don’t know, maybe I’m just in a girl mood or whatever, but it’s going to suck, spending the next year and the half always wondering what other people are saying about me. And you. And — us.”
It was probably a bit presumptuous of me to assume that Todd and I would still be together by graduation. After all, we’d be dating a grand total of two days and I still couldn’t believe he wanted to date me, of all people. A part of me thinks he’s going to go running for the hills once he realizes how incredibly boring my life is, that being with the girl who lies to and for people isn’t all that fun, and that deep beneath my snarky exterior I’m just as weepy and emotionally needy as everyone else.
“It’s just... now that I've heard the worst, it's harder to tune out now, I guess,” I finished, turning my gaze to my tennis shoes and waiting for him to laugh it off and tell me to stop being so sensitive.
In an 80s movie, this would’ve been the moment where Todd would’ve assuaged my doubts by leaning over to kiss me in full view of all of our haters and I would’ve forgotten all about my miserable Monday After in favor of making out on the bleachers with Prince blaring in the background or something.
But, like I said, life — especially mine — isn’t a John Hughes movie. There aren’t lines written by someone else to memorize or cliches to follow for the sake of pleasing an audience; you don’t have to force chemistry with Anthony Michael Hall or deal with wooden actors who make your job a million times harder. And there certainly aren’t any edited versions that get to run on TNT so you can relive your glory days a million times a month either. You have to improvise with life and while that's really shitty and sometimes painfully embarrassing, it can end up being really satisfying too.
Todd didn’t kiss me on the bleachers that day, but he did reach for me hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. And miraculously, that felt better than any kiss we could’ve had.
“Things will get better, Olive,” he said, giving me that smile of his that had been melting my knees since the eighth grade. “And if they don’t, at least you won’t have to do it alone this time.”
Here’s another big confession: the thing I like most about Todd isn’t that he has a great sense of humor or that he looks good with his shirt off and covered in blue body paint. It’s that, somehow, he always knows just when I need him most and he usually knows the right thing to say too. He’s a good guy — way better than a thousand John Cusacks or Judd Nelsons combined.
“You’re right,” I said, looking him in eye and smiling for the first time all day. “I don’t.”